Kathy loves the amusing tree designed by Lianna, founded by Gem-craft captain Alfeo Verreccia’s son, Paul. “Lianna is the Ellen DeGeneres of Christmas tree pin companies,” says Kathy. This 1990 ”vineyard” tannenbaum is on the cover of Warman’s Costume Jewelry Figurals: Identification and Price Guide (by Kathy Flood) and is signed “LIA”. It’s worth about $75.
Superstar Stanley Hagler is known for hand-wiring beads to filigree backings as seen in this 1986 tree made with champagne pearls and clear rhinestones ($150). Collectors pay a premium for vintage Hagler and Miriam Haskell
Kathy discovered an old cache of stained-glass Christmas-tree pins made in Austria for Laguna, a jewelry company founded in the ’40s and never known to have made a tree. The neo-geo design looks mod and very 1960s, which is when it was made. It’s worth about $150.
Genius Daniel Swarovski founded his company about 120 years ago in the Austrian Tyrol. The company was built on his invention of the first electrical machine to precision-cut high-quality crystal stones. To commemorate Swarovski’s design of Rockefeller Center’s 550-pound star tree topper in 2004, the company created the Pagoda tree pin ($125).
The French version of Bakelite, a Galalith tannenbaum in a chic butterscotch color, circa 1940, goes for about $150. Even unsigned, its dynamic geometric shape, color, and sheen show a serious hand at work.
A high-quality, mid-20th-century designer, Freirich designed this Christmas tree pin with veined glass leaves and red rhinestones in the 1970s. Today it’s worth about $150.
Pre-internet, Kathy spent 10 years searching for a Christmas tree pin designed by the cult Paris jewelry designer Lea Stein (b.1931), who is well known for multi-layered figural pins of animals, flowers, and people. Kathy flew to France to find the designer, who had archival drawings for tree pins that were never executed. A true believer, Flood took the plunge and commissioned 1,000 pins (in red, white, green, blue, black, peach, and purple) made of French cellulose acetate. The red tree shown here sells for about $125.
Similar to a precious-gems design by French superstar Suzanne Belperron, this larger costume-jewelry version of a Christmas tree pin is a mash-up of Art Nouveau and Art Deco with a smidgen of Asian influence. So unusual! It’s worth about $150.
An artist with a science background, Stuart Freeman created this tree in 1993 from a gold chain and bark he found in Central Park. “Whether you call his work avant-garde investment jewelry or zany pop-culture fashion statement, it’s always intriguing and, if you like the unusual, it’s irresistible,” says Kathy. It’s worth about $200 to $250.
Stuart Freeman doesn't just work with fresh bark. Here he turned silver foil and coated green Christmas wire into a one-of-a-kind conifer.
Long-ago Coro president Mike Tancer later formed his own company with sisters Marge Borofsky and Lynne Gordon, called Tancer-II. One of the trio's kookiest creations was a Seventies mink-fur confection, pitched heavily to men as gifts to wives and girlfriends. The original tag was a tongue-in-cheek, "Darling, here's that mink you wanted for Christmas."
Tons of handwork (carving, polishing) goes into Judy Clarke's elaborate limited-edition Lucite Christmas tree pins, this one with sapphire rhinestones—and jewels as gifts ’neath the tree.
“One of the first trees I ever bought was signed Lia,” says Kathy Flood. “That was a jewelry house named for the infant daughter of the founder, Paul Verreccia. We have since become close friends and I think I have 200 of his Christmas tree pins.” This Lianna 1990s tree pin of emerald baguettes is signed “LIA” and is worth about $125.
Mechanical jewelry is extremely popular, so that makes this Christmas Tree Pinball brooch even more fun. One woman in Berlin bought it to wear because she works in the coin-op games industry. The lever pulls back and shoots pearls and beads.
A rare and coveted Cartier tree pin with a dove topper sprang up at Sotheby’s in 2007. Set with diamonds, rubies, and nephrite, the uncommon spruce fell for $46,000. The sparkly Art Deco conifer was created in 1930 and is one of the oldest tree pins.
Probably one of the cleverest trees ever made, with loose tea and a connected but separate label brooch. The two can be pinned on to look like a tea bag steeping. By designer Stuart Freeman.
For those like Scrooge who want to “keep Christmas” all year long, this is literally a pine pin. Live evergreen is carried inside the Lucite and mirror encasement—it’s a little branch of tannenbaum to wear on your dress this holiday season. By Manhattan designer Stuart Freeman.
Blair Delmonico boutiques carried her Christmas tree pin in about 2004-05, so most avid collectors missed it. It came in three different sizes, with only the smallest (shown) decorated in multicolor bead ornaments. The other two were all crystal ice.
Costume jewelry specialist, collector, and author, Kathy Flood, is offering a special deal to Traditional Home readers. It’s an old-school arbor lavishly enameled, studded with rhinestone jewels, and decorated with a golden bell to commemorate the angel Clarence getting his wings in the last scene of It's A Wonderful Life. The festive Christmas tree pin is signed with the engraved autograph signature of George Bailey's daughter Zuzu, Karolyn Grimes. (Engraving includes both names.) The pin is from a very limited edition of 125, specially offered to Traditional Home readers at $59 plus shipping (versus $95 retail).
This tree is on the cover of the upcoming book, Comprehensive Jewelry Guide to Christmas Tree Pins. (Christmas delivery guaranteed, whether the brooch is for readers or a gift to someone who loves Zuzu and this iconic holiday movie.)
Order here and identify yourself as a TH reader, and the discount will be given. Merry Christmas!
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O, Christmas Tree Pin!
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Kathy Flood as told to Doris Athineos
Photographs by Peter Krumhardt
Adapted for the Web by Rebecca Christian
Traditional Home: Kathy, how did you become an arbor addict?
Collector Kathy Flood: I spotted 18 of the most beautiful Christmas tree pins ever made in 1993 as I was paging through a magazine. If they hadn’t been so superlative, who knows? But they were, so I was hooked.
TH: Where do you shop?
KF: Before the Internet, collecting was limited to seasonal retail offerings, garage sales and small antiques shops, but antiques malls and the Internet have made collecting so easy, which explains why my forest has grown wild.
Kathy spied this glittering 1975 glass-cone pin, signed “Eisenberg,” while cruising online. It’s worth about $400. Karl Eisenberg began as a couture dressmaker in Chicago in 1914 and, by the ’20s, focused on jewelry (Eisenberg Ice Jewelry). Unsigned trees are still affordable, but rare designs, notable maker’s marks, and high-quality craftsmanship add value, says Kathy, author of Collecting Costume Jewelry Christmas Tree Pins. “While Eisenberg is still made today, the craftsmanship isn’t the same,” says Kathy.